I once saw a homeless man politely asked to leave a church I used to be part of. The person that did it did not have any malicious intent (at least it didn’t seem like it), and may have been concerned of the effect this gentleman may have had on the other people in the sanctuary. That may have been true, because the man was pretty aromatic. He sat in the very back row, but I could still smell him when I walked in. I saw the man look up when he was approached, and then get up and leave a few seconds later.
I remember the pastor saw this happen from another part of the sanctuary and immediately came over and had words with the older guy who had just asked the homeless man to leave. Then he opened the back doors to the sanctuary and went after him, walking down Linda Vista road. Several minutes later, he came back with the homeless man, and sat him down about midway through the sanctuary. I don’t know how many others noticed this, and the pastor did not address it publicly, but I do remember him being especially passionate during his sermon.
It made me wonder how much we mean it when we say “come as you are” when talking about our church. I wonder what I would do if some ragged and smelly homeless person sat down in the back row of the Kofa Auditorium? I would like to think I would greet him and introduce him to people. I would like to think I could represent Christ to him in a way he might not have considered before, given his life circumstances. It’s easy for me to say, “Of course I would treat him well,” least of these and all.
Would I, though? If I am honest with myself, the truth is, I don’t know. I’ve seen lots of homeless people in town, and sometimes I talk to them and just ask them if they’re ok, and sometimes I don’t. I remember a few months ago, my wife and I were pulling out of the Albertsons parking lot, I think, and there was a woman holding a sign and pleading for money standing near the corner of Avenue B and whatever that other street is. Something about her car, I think it was. I didn’t see her at first, but my wife said “I think I’m going to give her some money.”
“OK,” I said, and she handed me a few bills. I was feeling rather cynical about it, because this lady didn’t look quite as ragged as some people do you see around town.
I rolled down the window (my wife was driving) with the bills in my hand. “Here you go,” I said, and slipped her the five or ten dollars. She took the money, but she didn’t let go of my hand right away. I looked at her for a moment to try and get a sense of things, and I could see she suffered from that skin condition that adds an almost-sunburned hue to a person’s countenance (rosacea? I don’t know).
“God bless you,” she said, and I could see her eyes fill.
Not me, I thought. “You as well,” I said. “Good luck. Keep praying.”
“Oh, I will,” she said.
I was just thinking about that day, and the day when Tim went and got that guy who’d been evicted from his pew. How often have I missed opportunities to show grace to people? How often have I been tired, or irritated, or just wanted to get to wherever my destination was rather than give someone I didn’t know a few minutes of my time? Many times.
One thing about The Rock Church that has been nice is we’ve only been going a short while, but have already had several chances to interact with the community, including our first outreach, which was to the Yuma military community. It was a really nice–though hot–day. And even though I was tired as hell, and didn’t want to go, I sucked it up and went anyway. I was blessed to have been there.
So my line of thought today was like this: don’t let chances go by when they come. You will regret it if you miss something. I believe that God sends people and chances our way–opportunites he means for us to take. They might seem like difficulties to us. They might seem like (and often are) obstacles to completing whatever we have on our own agenda.
They’re opportunities to do ministry. To help seek out the lost.
Let’s take them.